Wednesday, July 31, 2002


Toes are to wash when you take a bath.
Toes are to count to see how many.
Toes are five on each foot when you count from the right.
Right foot toes belong on the right foot.
Left foot toes belong on the left foot.
The big toe is the thumb of the foot.
All the other toes worry about the little one.
The big toe likes itself very well.

by my good buddy Carl S.

now i'll go


Moms are the best of all types of people.
Moms let you sit on their laps even when you get too big.
Moms ask you what's your favorite food and then make it for you.
Standing up tall is encouraged by moms.
So's elbows off the table.
Best of all moms tell you you're the best, smartest, nicest person you can be just about everyday.
I like moms.
They're the best of all types of people.

(for me mum)

Now you go!

Monday, July 29, 2002


Music is when your ears like what they hear.
Music is any voices you like to listen to.
Music is any sound you want to go on and on.
Music for you is anything you hear that clicks
with you.

by Carl Sandburg

"'Who was Carl Sandburg?' you ask . . . Sandburg was a fun-loving, questioning, dreamy boy who always wanted to know the whys and wherefores of things . . . [skip to adulthood where] prizes and awards came his way . . . He liked to write stories and poems for children, for he knew that children love the sound of words just as he did . . . He [also] liked to write about the inexplicable mysteries of the world and the universe, for he knew [again] that 'what can be explained is not poetry.'" by the Hendricks

Sunday, July 28, 2002

The doors are a scientific effort to equalize air pressure. Revolvers, as they are known in the industry, prevent the city's skyscrapers from turning into highrise wind tunnels. When cold weather sets in, for example, and a skyscraper's heaters are turned on, hot air rises to the top of the building, leaving a vacuum on the lower floors. If a regular swinging door, or swinger, is opened, cold air is sucked in to fill that void, creating winds that muss hairstyles and blow papers around lobbies.
from Saturday's NYTimes.

Who knew?

Monday, July 22, 2002

fine show this evening, inverse & friends. although md takes no credit for writerly choice & juxtoposition, it was his sense that brought the work forward and gathered such winners to give it to us. very glad I went. it was a great, great reading--fairies, trolls, ranch-hand peasants, bubble-gum brides, and crab-laden hearts all come to life right before my eyes.

production--reading of anne sexton's transformations poems (the brothers grimm reborn)

Saturday, July 20, 2002

It's 8:45 on one of those July mornings when you wake inside a box with the lid shut. But I don't mind. I don't even mind that my eyes popped open at 7:45. That's two hours more than the weekly usual, not bad. The roommate's on the Jersey shore with her Pappy, so the house is quiet. It's all mine.

I have no topic today, just free flow.

My morning view is out into the world of traffic. The block is a quiet one that starts to come alive with the sun. A few people dot their stoops, cupping morning coffee. Many have these little gated areas in front that corral things like weimeriners and toddlers. It's a peaceful comingling.

Last night in the city I got caught up in the storm. Do you know it? It was the one that everyone knew would hit in another 5, but went about their basketball and chess, taunting the sky to break. Bring it on. I made it 3 avenue blocks before umbrellas flipped out and people crowded under awning spaces. When I peered onto Broadway it looked like someone was taking a giant spray hose and gently sweeping the gush back and forth over the crevices of city blocks. An NYU flag that was stuck onto the outside of a building cowered like an animal being whipped into the bricks. This was Chicago wind, no doubt. I've seen it many times. Been pushed around by it until all I could do was turn my back and lean against it with all my might until it stopped. People were having great fun. I saw running and skipping and handholding. Heard lots of outbursts of one simple HA! Flops were lost in the streams that grew from asphalt. Umbrella sales were up!

And today the dow is down. I didn't know. Black Friday?? What's going on in the world? Someone give me the skinny.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

becoming a bug zapper
from the inside out.

a slow wooziness builds like a bell
being tolled
in the shaft of a San Francisco tower.

no. it was Advil Cold & Sinus
accidentally taken in double dose.

Friday, July 12, 2002

Sistra is in super-high-contrarian mode today, granted, but when the freaking superintendent drags us to an un-ac'd middle school in the Bronx at 8:15 on a hot Friday morning in July and serves us up generic Entemmanns and cheese squares for breakfast, the training should at least be good.

The problem started with the fact that "FAKE THIRD GRADE TEACHER"/Trainer was a Human Being Promoter more than an educator. Her Mama told her lots of parables about things like glossy shines on floors and seeing your reflection. Fine. Hardwork. I'm not down on Mama, truly. It's just that after she modeled reading a children's story aloud, reading every page, every word, for thirty-five straight minutes, allowing us not one stitch of input, reading it flatly and slurring words ("teacher" was "tisha"), all the while walking around the outer edge of the room in full circles, again, again, again (i didn't follow her with my eyes once), I got angry. I resented her for the shower I skipped this morning so that I could get there ontime (which turned out to be 45 minutes early. they lied to us). I resented her for the hot check my old job wrote me, which I had to re-deoposit a hundred blocks south and then a hundred blocks back north to get back to the afternoon session--all during my lunch hour. I resented her for the sleep I always seem to be thirsty for.

But that wasn't it. That I could have swallowed without too loud a grumble.

When Fake Third Grade Teacher was almost finished reading the story, she stopped. Her voice broke. There was silence in the room. I knew what was up, although I wasn't quite ready to see it. The freaking story about the little girl who couldn't read, and then learned to read because of her elegant and tall teacher, Mr. Falker, got her. Her eyes were red. Tears were dripping from her cheeks. She walked around the room again as if a different vantage point would allow her to finish or maybe just put her in more classmates' views.

Is teaching about crying? If we are so touched by overcoming an academic handicap that it chokes us up, will that make us good teachers? Apparantly this morning my class thought the answer was yes. So you know what they did? They started crying too. One woman spoke up and shared, "I was the little girl in the story." No, the story is fiction. It couldn't possibly be you. Is this group bootcamp? Come on people. Buck up. Stop crying! It's not sad. It's really not. It's a happy story. Kids do not know how to read. That's why they go to school. That's where they learn. Pretty cool, eh?

Call me crass. Call me contrary. I still say there's no crying in teaching. At least not at IS makebelieve # during a mock lesson on a hot July morning with no ac.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Room 502, the 3rd Grade-

Today Krystal began writing a story about Dalmations. She named one that was her imagined pet: Haleyfoy
(a cross of Ms. Haley & Ms. Foy, the two fellows who are her teachers).

Does it get better than Haleyfoy?

Sunday, July 07, 2002

What NYC Means to Me--

This fourth of July weekend is my one-year anniversary living in NYC. I ended up here by default. For me, it was being ready to leave someplace but not knowing quite where to go that placed me in the lap of this city. The experience getting here was one that I love--loading up the Ryder (it gives me a great sense of freedom to feel me & all my possessions together as a mobile unit), driving through the hollars and plateaus of this country, seeing cities I’ve never seen before, places like Pittsburgh, wondering what I’d be like if I grew up there. Would I talk funny? Would I scramble to get away all through my teenage years? My brother went with me to Pittsburgh. We started out in Chicago and ended in Astoria, Queens. When I think of long trips, he's usually there too, riding the many windy backroads of Texas with my Dad and stepmom in the front, chain-smoking with their windows cracked an eighth inch, and Jeff and I in the back leaning toward each of our windows like caged birds in the middle of a yellow, hazy coop. But I loved it. I love being on the road. I probably spent half my childhood in a car, going to Richardson, Port Aransas, and Kerrville again and again. All our friends and family were in Texas. We never left the state. Everybody’s there, and I’m in New York.

I’m painting a picture of separation, but in actuality this not being true has given me my sense of belonging since I moved here. The other morning I was walking down my block on the way to work and a childhood friend zoomed past on his bike. I called out and we had a chat before heading off. That’s community. It's smalltown.

That’s what NYC has come to mean to me--smalltown. There’s great comfort where you can simply be, amongst people doing the same. In some places in the city I feel this more. Tompkins Square Park reminds me of Barton Springs, the drag, and Hippie Hollow in Austin. If you walk through neighborhoods you notice the shifts--ten blocks moves you from bohemian to uptight, Arab to Italian--you notice the blends, and a melody of languages. There are not-so-pleasant times when the horns, concrete, and metal tubes underground start to close in on me. I long to be near water that expands to the horizon, or standing in the middle of hills filled with cedar and oak. In these moments I’d settle for not breathing in dirt. But because the city gives me meaning, I'm learning to temper these feelings.

I don’t think I’m having a love affair with New York. It’s more like New York is letting me give it a try. I didn’t expect the city to speak to me. I didn’t expect much at all. When I moved here I had been broken down for awhile. But what it has given me is a sense that helps me attune to humanity. It speaks to me through the many languages and brands of people communing. It is tolerance and fluidity. It never stops.

Wednesday, July 03, 2002


watching table guy
sucking on edamame
li! li! li! li! li!

edamame pod,
is sea salt an isotope?
do you marry well?

laughter is nervous
my sister rants in prisms
she is far away.

my beaded change purse
wants to pledge allegiance, God
strung red white and blue.

Pablo Begala
i knew you in Austin T.
now you’re a star; why?

double-dashed hand stands
parallelisms that twist—
grammarian hop.

velvet cake pieces
blushing until they redden
the ego sliced.

Monday, July 01, 2002

okay--what you've all been waiting for--Another School Update!
(to the tune of Sam Cooke's "Don't Get Around Much Anymore")

first day of summer school (day 9 camp fellows)--

There are 11 of us at PS makebelieve #, the Bronx, yo. We arrive bright-eyed, doe-eyed, pick any babyfresh-like eyed and that is us. I could go into a tale about Principal E, but you'll be getting plenty along the way, and I'd rather go straight to the goodness.

I was placed with a buddy fellow into a 3rd grade classroom of 5 students. We entered into a serious discussion already in progress where each child was asked and expected to answer why he or she was in summer school this year. Uh. Excuse me, maybe that's personal. Maybe Krystal doesn't feel like sharing this morning. I felt for little Krystal, but the teacher persisted firmly, and then I began to see the logic of her guidance or the guidance of her logic. They were to begin a writing exercise on this very topic. Talking beforehand gets the juices flowing. But that wasn't the whole bag. Teacher was working on instilling some sense of accountability in these little ones--very important, in fact born into the journey they will take for (hopefully) all twelve years of their public school life. Accountability, ever heard of it?

My buddy fellow and I hung back about 3 feet from the five snuggling desks, standing cross-armed. Umm, teaching involves what exactly? But we warmed to the process farily soon thereafter.

I was amazed at how vividly I could see these kids' minds at work--how they piece together their own inner narratives with sounds made into letters, words they've seen other places that might fit, transposin all over the place. Their little heads were going, going too fast to stop and think about how to spell. I'll just write "riajon" (for "reason") and be done with it. Little Krystal is truly fond of the letter "i." She uses it in every instance calling for a vowel. Hmm? And then it suddenly clicked that homework actually is important. You see, when I was a lass, school was school and carrying jeff's sax home was afterschool. We were free to roam the trails, build forts, make homemade horror flicks, play calico vision. No homework, I tell you. But today it's a mission, a new trend. Fine, I just favor play. However, I could see all the tremendous progress in store for Krystal if I could only help her one-on-one for say two hours a day. That's reasonable isn't it. What do you think?

School is great.
for you folks to think on:
(the topic, public education, of course)

"I’m . . . sad to say it, but the truth is that we are, to a degree, what you have made of us. The United States now has, in many black administrators of the public schools, precisely the defeated overseers it needs to justify this terrible immiseration. It is a tradition that goes back at least 300 years. A few of us are favored. They invite us to a White House ceremony and award us something—a ‘certificate of excellence’—for our achievement. So we accept some things and we forget some other things and what we can’t forget we learn how to shut out of mind and we adopt the rhetoric that is required of us and we speak of ‘quality’ or ‘excellence’—not justice."

code: immiseration--to make miserable

this quote is from a black principal of an American public school who requested to remain anonymous, as interviewed by Jonathon Kozol in Savage Inequalities.